You know this as well as I do… what the world tells us about who we should be and what we should do isn’t always true. You also know (as well as I do) that what our egos tell us is important and meaningful isn’t always true. We just don’t like to admit either of these things.
(For the full audio podcast, click here: SJ Sermon 2_2_14)
The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 tells us that sometimes we have to let go of the “wisdom of the world” in order to know the wisdom of God. And then Paul points to Jesus. He says (in my astute paraphrase), “I know it seems foolish to follow some guy who was killed on a cross, but if you really understood the message of the cross – who Jesus was and what his life stood for – you would know that he was deeply spiritual, immensely wise and worthy of following. Jesus was not weak and foolish, even though he was betrayed, humiliated and executed. He was strong and sincere and full of wisdom.”
Paul never really knew Jesus when he was alive, but Paul’s experience of the spirit of Jesus after his death had transformed him so drastically that he lived the rest of his life hoping to lead others to that same transformation. What Paul learned of Jesus was that Jesus’ strength came in speaking his truth in ways that inspired and radically transformed people’s lives. Jesus’ strength came in putting love above the law as, over and over again, he treated all people (including women, children, outcasts, Gentiles, enemies) with love, respect and compassion. His strength came in never deviating from his path. Jesus never allowed his integrity to be compromised by fear, ambition, power or ego. But his ultimate show of strength was that he believed so strongly in what he was teaching that he was willing to die for it rather than deny it, run, hide or change his tune. How many of us could say the same?
What Paul tried to tell the folks of Corinth is as true for us today as it was for them. He told them that they were “heading for ruin” if all they did was buy into what society told them to believe or care about or work for. The world doesn’t care about your soul, and will leave you empty in the end. To “experience salvation” (as Paul puts it) in the here and now, all we need to do is follow the example of one who knew God intimately: don’t judge, trust in God, show forgiveness, show love and kindness, work for justice. This will fill our souls.